December 23, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (88) reacts after making pass reception for a first down against the Cincinnati Bengals during the third quarter at Heinz Field. The Cincinnati Bengals won 13-10. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Steelers Free Agency: Emmanuel Sanders signs offer sheet with Patriots


There hasn’t been much news in terms of the Pittsburgh Steelers signing free agents, but they could be prepared to lose another one.

Restricted free agent wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders caused a stir a few weeks ago when he visited the New England Patriots and after some time has passed, it looks as if he could be catching passes from Tom Brady next season.

Nov 4, 2012; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (88) prior to the game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim O

NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday morning the Patriots submitted an offer sheet for Sanders and is a one-year contract. The Patriots would have to send a third-round pick to Pittsburgh in exchange for Sanders if the Steelers don’t match the offer.

First is the obvious and that’s the Steelers will have a hard time matching the deal.

They have only $1.9 million in cap space and still have to find a way to sign draft picks after April’s draft.

The smart option for the Steelers would be to simply allow Sanders to walk. The third-round pick is much more valuable than anything Sanders has done thus far in his career. We are talking about a guy who has as many 100-yard receiving games (one) in his career as running back Isaac Redman.

After losing Mike Wallace to the Dolphins and having to deal with Heath Miller coming off ACL surgery, the Steelers don’t want to lose Sanders, but it won’t be as big of a loss as people would think initially. Sanders has done nothing in his career that would indicate that he can step up and replace a lot of the production lost with Wallace leaving.

But on the other token, when your best player is your quarterback, you need to surround him with weapons and the Steelers certainly have not done that.

If the Steelers were serious about signing Sanders, they would have cleared more money when the restructured LaMarr Woodley’s contract. That kind of sends a message in its own.

The only other option the Steelers have left is to release some players or to restructure the contract of Troy Polamalu, which is unlikely as they already have enough dead money tied up in the future after restructuring a lot of deals so far.

The interesting part in all of this is the fact that the Pats only signed Sanders to a one-year deal, but that could make it more difficult to match.

You would have to think that if New England gives you a third-round pick, they will look to sign Sanders to a long-term deal after this is all said and done.

Another interesting thing is the fact that the Patriots will not have a  have a pick between rounds 3-5 of this year’s draft if the Steelers don’t match the offer, which means they will likely be very busy trading picks during the draft as they always are.

The Steelers have five days to decide whether or not they will match it or allow Sanders to walk.

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